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Vertium: Shadows of the Complex Review

“At some point, everything's gonna go south on you and you're going to say, this is it. This is how I end. Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work. That's all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem and you solve the next one, and then the next.” – Mark Watney

Quick Look:

Designer: Randy Thompson
Publisher: Caper Games
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 1-4
Ages: 9+
Playing Time: 30-60 minutes

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

WARNING: This is a review of a prototype of the game Vertium. As such, the final components can and will vary from the images below.

From the Publisher: Captain John Brooks: Log 2373-9 The Complex crushed all opposition on Earth, the Moon, and Mars, and banished the remaining rebel factions to Pluto and Charon. We established our makeshift colony on Charon and explored the region. We discovered the Royal Martian Federation (RMF), the Hielo and the Myst, and made contact. Although historical rivals, we worked together to survive the frigid conditions, stockpiling resources and launching probes across the Milky Way.

One probe returned compelling data from the Copernicus System in Quadrant 1. Coper has a yellow dwarf star and an intriguing group of planets. A dazzling radioactive element, that we named Vertium, was discovered. Our physicists think it could heat our colonies, and upgrade weapons and armour.

As word spread, the rebel groups bolted for Coper. The fragile cooperation evaporated. Each faction is now out for itself - claiming planets and mining Vertium. The stakes are clear: for whoever controls the Vertium will control Coper, and perhaps the galaxy.

Brooks out.


Rules and Setup:
In Vertium, you and up to three other players will battle to control both planets and the element Vertium. Gameplay consists of two different phases: the Colonization Phase, where you will be working to colonize the planets and try to control them; and the Conflict Phase, where you'll be able to attack and try to take over planets and their "vertium."

The game consists of Planets, Moons (two different types - blue and orange), vertium pieces, faction pieces (meeples, dice, faction-specific cards, tokens, and player mats), and two decks of cards (Secret Objective and Supply). Setup for the game is very simple. Based on the number of players, you'll be placing planets down on the table. You'll then take the stack of orange moons, shuffle them, and randomly place one on each planet, face down. You'll do the same for the blue moons, but you'll only be placing three of them at random. Each player will choose their starting faction and take the appropriate number of pieces. Shuffle the Supply deck, and deal each player six cards; then, shuffle the Secret Objective deck, and each player draws one card. Turn over the orange moons to reveal their value, reveal two cards from the Supply deck, and start!

In the Colonization Phase, you will be working to gain control of a planet using the cards in your hand. You'll start the turn by drawing one of the two Supply cards visible and checking to see if you have a set of three. If you do, you'll place one of your tokens that match the color on the set of cards played, and place it on a planet that does not already have that color. This continues until a planet has all four colors on it; the player who places the final color on the planet successfully colonizes it and places their Captain on the planet, along with the number of vertium that the orange moon indicates. If you do not have a set of cards, you can play any card that has a special effect written on it, causing players to do different things, from discarding cards from their hand to removing tokens from other planets. Play continues until all planets have been colonized. Once that is complete, you turn over the three moons (each with a special ability) and complete their action. You then check your Secret Objective card and see if the condition has been met, gaining victory points and more Vertium.

Phase two is the Conflict Phase, where each player can attack other planets and try to take control of them. This phase consists of three rounds, giving each player an opportunity to take control of the planets. starting with the player that has the most Victory Points after the Colonization Round, the attacks begin. To attack a planet, you will be moving your captain, along with a number of Vertium from whatever planet you're moving from, remembering to leave at least one Vertium on the base planet. You'll move to the planet you want to battle for, and both players will roll the dice. These dice will have specific images representing a Photon Blast, Atomic Beam, or a Shield. After rolling the dice, you'll compare the results, then allow for the Skirmish cards in the players' hands to be played. Compare results, determine if the attack was successful or not, then move to the next player. After each round has completed, you'll add up Victory Points, determine who the next starting player is, and continue with the next round of the Conflict Phase.

Theme and Mechanics: Thematically, this game is incredibly strong. It has you working against a rival faction to colonize a planet, control its resources, and either attack or defend against your opponent. With different types of planets, moons of different values, and multiple factions, you'll find it very easy to feel the immersion of the universe that Caper Games has created.

Mechanically, the game moves very smoothly in both phases. With a clear separation of both phases, you feel like you're playing two different games. In the Colonization Phase, you're working more on set collection with the cards, and strategically setting yourself up to be the last player to put a resource token on the planet to gain control of it. In the Conflict Phase, you'll be working to attack and defend using the planets you controlled in the first phase. Smooth and clean mechanics are used in both phases. Additionally, the rule book comes with a number of variants, including a solo mode.

Game Play: Gameplay for Vertium is incredibly smooth and fast to learn. It uses the simple mechanic of set collection in the first phase to allow for some placement of your workers, along with some strategic planning, which most players will likely enjoy.

In the second phase, you have more direct actions between players involving dice rolling, and more strategy when it comes to how and where to attack, along with resource management. The developer has really looked at being able to use multiple mechanics in a single game, using two different phases to ensure that players understand each one, and plays them cleanly and smoothly.

Artwork and Components: Let me start this by saying that a prototype of Vertium was provided for this review, and all the components were non-finalized. That being said, the art was clean, simple, and impressive, matching with the theme of the game. With a variety of planets, cards that clearly show the elements that they match, clear text when needed, and symbols for those who may have issues seeing the colors, the team at Caper Games have put thought into each piece.

Components, as mentioned above, were not a finalized version, so I won't comment on the quality of them, as that wouldn't be fair to the company and the game.

The Good: Clean artwork, clear definition of the actions in the two very different phases, and a great theme fitting the artwork and story behind the game. For those who enjoy the first phase, you can easily just play that phase and use the scoring determine a winner. For more player interaction, and a bit of luck, you can add Phase 2 into the game.

The Bad: Very little interaction in the first phase of the game, as you'll be focused more on the set collection. Not truly bad, but some folks will be looking for more interaction, which is what the second phase introduces. Some folks might have a little analysis paralysis (AP) in the first phase, overthinking their placements on the planet, but it should be minimal.

Final Thoughts: I have to say, this was a pleasure to play for all the folks that I brought in to help. With player count ranging from 1 player up to 4, and the variance of skills needed to play this, both newer and experienced gamers enjoyed it. This is not a big box game, but you will find a lot of replay and requests for this to come back to the table. The sweet spot seemed to be around 3-4 players, and if playing both phases, it took around 40 minutes on average. It also has very light language dependency; I was able to take this and play it with folks who knew little to no English, and they were able to play it with no difficulties (the icons really make it easy!).

Check out Vertium: Shadows of the Complex on:


Delton Perez - Reviewer

Delton Perez is a FLGS owner with 2 locations in Puerto Rico. Originally from Boston, he currently lives in the wilds of Ohio, where he currently resides with his family. By day, he is a Retail Consultant working in New York in the Fashion Industry, but by night, meeples, dice, and cardboard take over. Delton also runs a gaming organization based in Northeast Ohio that focuses on running game nights at Libraries, Schools, and Churches on a scheduled, monthly basis. At times, Delton has even been able to sleep, though proof has yet to be found.

See Delton's reviews HERE.
Vertium: Shadows of the Complex Review Vertium: Shadows of the Complex Review Reviewed by NeedsOfTheOne on October 01, 2018 Rating: 5

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